ODOT: Distracted driving ‘an epidemic’

Alexxys Therwhanger was 19 when she was killed Feb. 19, 2016

The driver of this car was texting as it crashed into a wall near Baseline and 195th in Aloha, the Washington County Sheriff's Office said. June 20, 2017 (WCSO Twitter)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Shannon Gilman knows all too well the dangers of distracted driving. Her daughter, Alexxys Therwhanger, died in a crash on February 19, 2016.

Alexxys Therwhanger was killed in a car crash February 19, 2016. She was 19 (ODOT)
Alexxys Therwhanger was killed in a car crash February 19, 2016. She was 19 (ODOT)

On that day the 19-year-old was driving home in eastern Oregon when she hit another car. Two people were badly injured in the crash that killed Alexxys. Investigators with the Oregon State Police said she had been texting.

Alexxys Therwhanger was killed in a car crash February 19, 2016. She was 19 (ODOT)
Alexxys Therwhanger was killed in a car crash February 19, 2016. She was 19 (ODOT)

An emotional public service announcement re-released by the Oregon State Police continue to remind drivers that distracted driving can kill.

Shannon Gilman is part of that 3-minute PSA.

“There is no phone call, there’s no text that’s worth taking your eyes off the road for one second because that’s all it takes,” Gilman said in the PSA, originally released in May 2016. “It just takes that one moment and you don’t get another chance.”

On Tuesday, there was a very close call in Aloha. A driver, who deputies said was a distracted driver, crashed into a wall near Baseline and 195th.

Nick Mitchell, who lives in that area, said his mother saw the accident.

“I walk along here with my kids all the time,” he said. “It’s horrible. They need to be paying attention to the road.”

Mitchell said he often sees people texting and not paying attention while they’re driving. As for this driver, he said, “They got pretty lucky.”

The driver survived.

Oregon Department of Transportation officials said there is a distracted driving crash in Oregon, on average, every 2.5 hours. They describe distracted driving crashes as an epidemic, and they also believe it’s highly underreported because people don’t like to admit they were distracted in some way when they crashed.